FOOTBALL: Area curtain comes down as Final Fours come into focus

FOOTBALL: Area curtain comes down as Final Fours come into focus

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And then there were none.

With the quarterfinal losses suffered by Maloney and Sheehan on Tuesday night, the curtain has come down on the 2017 high school football season.

At least in the Record-Journal coverage area. While championship dreams do live on in neighboring Berlin and for Wallingford’s Tom Brockett and his Ansonia Chargers, football has fallen short of December for the R-J for the first time since 2012, when Southington lost in the Class LL quarterfinals to Glastonbury.

The irony is 2017 was the most successful regular season for area clubs since the golden year of 1998.

That fall, the six local clubs went a combined 44-14. Nobody had a losing record. Two of the Thanksgiving games were de facto playoff games — Southington and Maloney in; Cheshire and Platt out — and Southington won the Class LL championship.

This year, the six local clubs went a combined 41-19. Only one (4-6 Platt) had a losing mark. All three Thanksgiving games had postseason ramifications.

Maloney (9-1) and Sheehan (9-1) made it. Southington (8-2) just missed.

Cheshire was 6-4. Lyman Hall equalled its win total from the previous five years combined by going 5-5 under first-year coach Bill Weyrauch.

Weyrauch was named SCC Tier 3 Coach of the Year. Sheehan senior lineman Steve Zenisky was named the Tier’s Player of the Year.

Great plot. It just peaked too soon.

The Sheehan-Barlow game in Class M was one of Tuesday’s best, especially if you dig offense. The combined 81 points in Barlow’s 47-34 win were the most in a 16-game field mostly littered with blowouts.

The closest quarterfinal was on the other side of the Class M sub-bracket, where the SMSA Co-op clipped the Coventry Co-op 32-29 to avenge a 28-26 loss in the regular-season finale that came down to a stymied two-point conversion.

SMSA, the No. 7 seed, and Barlow, the No. 6, will meet in Sunday’s semifinals in Redding. Riccitelli Field, where No. 3 Sheehan held viable title aspirations, will sit silent.

Here’s an early prediction, though. If the Titans, a veritable All-Area All-Rookie Team this fall, continue to play as they did this year and continue to develop, they’ll be right back in the postseason next year and the year after that.

For now, the buzz stays with the three reigning state champs who have advanced to the 2017 semifinals: Darien (Class LL), New Canaan (Class L) and Ansonia (Class S).

Controversy swirls around two-time defending champion Darien, where three players were charged with assault the day before Thanksgiving.

The trio did not play on Turkey Day and the Blue Wave’s 34-game winning streak came to 27-0 halt against New Canaan. On Tuesday night, one of the arrested players, quarterback Jack Joyce, was back in action and he guided Darien to a 30-10 win over East Hartford.

East Hartford coach Richard Milton made an interesting post-game comment to the Hartford Courant.

“I expected to see every single one of their players here,” Milton said. “We knew they’d be here. We knew there wouldn’t be any consequences.”

Joyce and his two teammates allegedly assaulted a teenager in New Canaan. That town’s football team stayed on course for a fifth straight Class L crown by beating top-seeded and previously unbeaten Middletown 24-9.

Middletown was the lone No. 1 seed to fall Tuesday.

This was no upset, however. New Canaan, led by sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne, a Division I prospect, is a No. 8 in name only. The lone blemishes on New Canaan’s 9-2 record were administered by unbeaten Greenwich, the No. 1 seed in Class LL, and Class S contender St. Joseph.

Speaking of which, St. Joe’s 62-0 rout of O’Brien Tech was Tuesday’s most lopsided final and sparked anew the debate of parochial schools and other “schools without borders” playing in small-school divisions come playoff time against one-town public schools.

(True, O’Brien, as a technical school drawing from multiple towns, technically fits the same catagory as St. Joe’s, yet no one ever confused a tech school, where the emphasis is on learning a trade and not athletics, with a parochial powerhouse.)

While the chatter continues, St. Joe’s must prepare of a formidable semifinal foe: No. 3 Rocky Hill. The Terriers (11-0) cranked up its ground attrack Tuesday and remained unbeaten with a 34-21 victory over Valley Regional in the quarterfinals.

Is a Ansonia-Rocky Hill rematch looming in the Class S final? The Chargers beat the Terriers 28-21 in last year’s closest final.

Or will St. Joe’s, which lost to Hillhouse in last year’s Class M title tilt, be the opponent? Either way, a major challenge awaits Ansonia as it looks to extend its state record to 21 CIAC football championships. The finals are next Saturday. All eight semis are Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Area players will no doubt hit up some games. Then they’ll hit up the weight room. Nothing stokes the off-season fire like defeat in December. Or, in this case, November.

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